Figure out what you need the credit for. Generally, if it's a major purchase, your lender (the car dealership, home mortgage lender, etc.) will help you fill out all the paperwork.

If you just want a credit card, you must shop around on your own. Find a bank offering a low interest rate. The lender will use your application to get a copy of your credit report from the credit bureaus. Your application, along with the credit report, will be used to "score" you.

Creditors use a score card to evaluate your credit worthiness. The following items are listed in order of importance when evaluating your credit request:

* A positive, up-to-date credit report
* A home with a mortgage and up-to-date payments
* An American Express or Diners Club Card
* The same job for more than one year
* An address that you have resided at for more than one year that is in your name
* A current or paid off bank loan
* A MasterCard or Visa
* A department store credit card
* A telephone or utility bill in your name